Despite economy, medical schools expanding rapidly

Despite the sick economy, the medical school business is quite healthy, thank you very much. With doctor shortages barreling down on U.S. communities and the population graying, there's plenty of need.

This year, the number of accredited medical schools training doctors in the U.S. should hit 130. Meanwhile, five others have applied for accreditation and hope to start accepting students in 2010 or 2011. This includes plans for three new schools in financially-strapped Michigan, whose unemployment rate hit 11.6 percent in January.

As things stand, the U.S. will have about 159,000 fewer doctors than it needs by 2025, with particularly big gaps in primary care. However, medical schools may be able to close that gap somewhat. The number of students applying for admission shot up 21.4 percent between 2003 and 2008. Meanwhile, accredited schools admitted 18,036 students in 2008, up 9.1 percent from 2003.

While adding medical school slots may help ease the growing shortage, the American Medical Association says that's not enough. The AMA would like to see Medicare, which has financed residencies since 1965, raise its current cap of 98,000 positions.

To find out more about this trend:
- read this Associated Press piece

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